Trying unsuccessfully to conceive a baby is one of the most disheartening and frustrating situations a couple has to deal with. Aside from conflicting medical opinions and deciding on options, the stress associated with cost of treatments and testing can cause further complication.
For women in the conventional medical system, most doctors will do blood tests to assess hormone levels and ultrasounds to look for fibroids, cysts, tumors, and to make sure the fallopian tubes are clear and not blocked by scarring or anything else. A woman may be prescribed synthetic hormones to raise progesterone or choose a number of fertility treatments including in vitro fertilization (IVF) where egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside of the womb and then implanted into womb. This is a pretty hard core treatment, often a last resort, and women usually have to do hormone injections so that they produce many eggs, which are then retrieved using a transvaginal technique involving an ultrasound-guided needle piercing the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries.
These treatments are costly, sometimes painful, and always stressful. And they don’t always work. The thing I find most troubling here is that conventional medicine always looks at the symptoms and the outcome: the woman can’t get pregnant, isn’t producing enough sex hormone, or can’t hold a pregnancy, so synthetic hormones or fertility drugs are the answer. But why not look at the REASON the woman is not producing hormones?
Fallopian tube scarring or other growths or obvious problems require specialized treatment. But I do want to address some issues for women who have hormonal imbalance, or just plain don’t know why they can’t conceive.
First off, taking fertility drugs certainly may do the trick, but watch out: you could end up with seven kids. Secondly, these and artificial progesterone are synthetic hormones that the body doesn’t recognize (i.e. they don’t fit properly into hormone receptors) and may not be able to process. They don’t work for everyone. In holistic medicine, we look at the whole person and make recommendations from there.
The first order of business is to address your stress level and test your adrenal hormones, many of which are precursors to your female hormones. So if your adrenals are exhausted, your cycle may not be regular, or you may not be producing enough progesterone (the pro-gestational hormone needed to get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term). Once you have this information you can repair your adrenals using bioidentical hormones or herbs. The body recognizes bio-identical hormones because their structure is the exact same as the hormones your body produces.
You’ll want to test your female hormone levels – estrogen and progesterone – ideally for an entire month where you’ll submit a series of saliva samples – to see when you’re ovulating and read your hormone levels. Saliva testing is more accurate that blood testing to get an accurate hormone reading. For example, if you’re ovulating at day 5 instead of day 14, this could affect conception.
This is invaluable information to have about your cycle. If you’re not ovulating at all or ovulating too early or late, you can take certain amounts of bio-identical progesterone (often wild yam) at particular days in your cycle to boost progesterone levels and normalize progesterone. If you’re estrogen dominant (if you’ve had fibroids, endometriosis, heavy bleeding, or have been on the pill for years, chances are you are not producing enough progesterone in relation to estrogen), progesterone will balance your hormone levels and normalize your cycle.
You also want to assess your diet: are you getting quality protein and healthy fats, the precursor to hormones? Are you doing too much soy? This can really affect hormone levels. How is your digestion? If you’re not absorbing your food due to a damaged digestive tract, you won’t have the raw materials to make hormones and you won’t be able to utilize all the nutrients from your food. Test yourself for parasites, candida, or pathogens, and repair your digestion. Parasites can cause infertility because they affect hormone levels.
While I’ve really only touched the surface here, I want to illustrate that there are options. This is a very personal decision and a sensitive subject. Many, many women have had successes using fertility drugs and treatments. But for those who have not, there are alternative options that work with your body rather than further stress your reproductive system. Look at your overall health: the health of your adrenal glands, thyroid hormones, digestion, and your diet. Balance hormone levels naturally by working with the body. Take stock of your diet: eliminate refined foods, take a quality multi and a B complex, and get high quality hormone-free protein and good fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and flaxseed oil. Celiac (gluten allergy) disease is implicated in infertility. Eliminate coffee and reduce alcohol. Look at the health of your home. Mold and toxins can affect fertility. and finally, relax. Try some stress relief, acupuncture, or massage, and honor your body for the amazing ability it has to create life.
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